Project Overview

Motivation, Goals, and Activities

The United States is not producing college graduates with STEM majors in sufficient numbers to meet workforce demands, because of disproportionate attrition in STEM among traditionally underrepresented students and inefficiencies in transferring from two-year to four-year institutions. We address this problem through a partnership between Queens College (QC), a four-year institution, and Queensborough Community College (QCC), a two-year institution. Our project's goals are:

  • to graduate more Hispanic and low-income students with Baccalaureate degrees in STEM, and
  • to develop two-year to four-year articulation agreements for all STEM majors.

With funding by a five-year grant to QC from the US Department of Education HSI-STEM program (PR/Award Number: P031C160208), the project is designed to achieve these goals through three activities:

  1. Improve Access: faculty will redesign courses that "land" students into STEM disciplines, at QC and at QCC. These are courses that are prerequisites to challenging “gateway” courses in STEM and STEM-related programs at QC in: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Geology, Mathematics, Nutrition Science and Dietetics, Physics, and Psychology and Neuroscience. These courses are undergoing faculty-led redesigns at both institutions with the goal of better preparing students for their next crucial phase of training.
  2. Improve Learning: Sustainable, student-led learning collectives provide ongoing and supplemental instruction, tutoring, mentoring, and support to STEM students, who sometimes struggle to find the community and support that can be determinative of academic success.
  3. Bridge: We contribute to building cross-campus organizational structures tasked with better tracking and assisting STEM students who begin their undergraduate careers at QCC and complete their Baccalaureates at QC. This will be accomplished in part by developing articulation agreements for all STEM majors and ensuring that students have access to maps to guide their academic trajectory.
Geographic location in New York City for 24 institutions in the City University of New York (CUNY) system, including the project's partners, both located in the eastern part of the Borough of Queens: Queens College (QC) and Queensborough Community College (QCC).
Colors indicate institutions that are eligible for Federal minority-serving eligibility designations: AANAPISI (green) = Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions; HSI (yellow) = Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

Project Design

The project builds on evidence-based models that meet “moderate evidence of effectiveness” as set out by the What Works Clearinghouse. Our strong theory of change (as articulated in the project's logic model) defines how the project is designed to change our campuses' culture by improving student learning through improved teaching practices and an expansion of student mentoring and tutoring, while at the same time expanding and refining programmatic articulation from QCC to QC.

Through its three interrelated activities, which target different aspects of the student experience, the project will involve total of roughly 24,000 students taking entry-level STEM courses at QC (67% transfer, 39% low-income, 26% Hispanic) and at QCC (49% low-income, 32% Hispanic). The three activities use strategies designed to improve the success of traditionally underrepresented students, and the evaluation plan is designed to measure our impact on Hispanic and low-income students. The design is infused with components grounded on evidence-based research meeting the conditions of “moderate evidence of effectiveness” or higher. The evaluation will employ a multi-site, block Randomized Control Trial design with cluster-level assignment to explore program impacts on the primary outcomes. This design was developed to meet What Works Clearinghouse standards without reservations.

Selected Readings

Condon, W., Iverson, E. R., Manduca, C. R., Willett, G., Huber, M. T., 7 Haswell, R. (2016) Faculty development and student learning: Assessing the Connections. Bloomington, IN: Indiana U. Press.

Crisp, G., Nora, A., & Taggart, A. (2009). Student characteristics, pre-college, college, and environmental factors as predictors of majoring in and earning a STEM degree: An analysis of students attending a Hispanic serving institution. The American Educational Research Journal, 46, 924-942.

Gainen, J. (1995). Barriers to success in quantitative gatekeeper courses. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 61, 5-14. doi:10.1002/tl.37219956104

Leinbach, D. T. & Bailey, T. R. (2006). Access and achievement of Hispanics and Hispanic immigrants in the City University of New York. New Directions for Community Colleges, 133, 27-40. doi:10.1002/cc.225

Seymour, E. & Hewitt, N. M. (1997). Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Institutional Context

Both QC and QCC are part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the nation's largest urban public university, whose legislatively mandated mission includes serving “as a vehicle for the upward mobility of the disadvantaged in the City of New York".

At QC, the project will be conducted under the direction of the Office of the Provost, in collaboration with faculty from the Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and the Center for Teaching and Learning, including faculty that belong to groups underrepresented in STEM disciplines. At QCC, the project will be managed through QCC’s Office of the Provost. QC and QCC personnel will collaborate in the design, implementation, and evaluation of all three activities, thus building sustainable structures bridging our two institutions, ultimately leading to system change.

Both of our institutions are invested in promoting curricular redesigns that bring equity of learning to low income and minority students. Recognizing that traditional pedagogies and institutional support structures do not satisfy student learning evenly, the project will lead our college communities into pioneering a curriculum design that will have positive impacts on a significant segment of our student population.

About Queens College

Queens College (QC) serves a predominantly undergraduate (82%) commuter (95%) student population. We also offer Master’s and graduate-level Advanced Certificate degrees, and participate in doctoral education through our consortial relationship with the CUNY Graduate Center, the system’s principal doctorate-granting institution.

QC’s mission is to provide an accessible and affordable quality education to our local community. Our rigorous undergraduate curriculum in the liberal arts and sciences is offered with the guidance of faculty dedicated to teaching and research, and engaged with regional intellectual, artistic, education, and business communities. Given our academic excellence, urban location, and affordable tuition, we are regularly recognized as a leading liberal arts college in the nation.

About Queensborough Community College

Queensborough Community College (QCC) provides its students with an academic environment that strengthens a commitment to their own education. QCC offers transfer and degree programs at the Associate's level, as well as non-credit and certificate programs.

QCC's mission emphasizes a dedication to academic excellence and rigor. QCC provides an affordable, high-quality education to pre-college, college, and life-long learners. QCC's faculty and staff are committed to the holistic development of students, in a nurturing and diverse environment that prepares them for successful entry into a dynamic workforce. The curriculum provides a strong support for critical thinking, intellectual inquiry, global awareness, civic responsibility, and cultural and artistic appreciation.

Our Local Community and Our Students

Both QC and QCC are located in the Borough of Queens, home to approximately one quarter of New York City's residents, including close to 15% of the school-age population of the City. Due to oncoming waves of immigration from all over the globe, Queens is one of the most culturally diverse places in the US: 26% Asian, 20% Black, 28% Hispanic, 13% some other ethnicity.

Like our community, students at QC and QCC are exceptionally diverse:

  • QC's over 16,000 undergraduates are 56% female and 26% Asian, 8% Black, 28% Hispanic. Our students report origins in over 150 countries (73% born in the US, 15% permanent residents, 8% naturalized citizens) and use over 110 languages other than English.
  • QCC's over 16,000 students are 54% female and 23% Asian, 23% Black, and 32% Hispanic, hailing from 140 countries and more than one third speaking a language other than English. QCC is the largest feeder institution for QC, and is located a mere 4 miles east from the QC campus, in eastern Queens. QCC sends nearly 900 students to QC annually (23% of QC's entering students each year, 36% of QC's new transfers).
Mural on a handball court at IS 145 (Northern Boulevard and 80th Street)